VoLTE and TD-LTE
Over the past few years, VoLTE has been a little like the electric car was for a long time: promising technology that has taken significant time to realize, and with some doubts lingering as to its superiority over other options. Nevertheless, 2014 stands to be a significant turning point in VoLTE adoption. We’ve seen LTE networks becoming mainstream in 2013, with the development of standards and expansion of coverage that will make mass deployment of VoLTE possible.
Over the next year the promise will begin to be realized. Carriers will be able to transition from their older networks designed primarily for voice to new data-centric networks. They will be able to offer improved quality and higher data speeds to their customers, as well as new functionality that will prove to be disruptive for those who lead the way in effective implementation. In particular, high-definition voice has the potential to enrich the customer experience, leading to more calls, longer calls and improved revenue for carriers.
TD-LTE is a burgeoning technology for delivering high-quality services to customers while increasing the agility of provider networks. Key for carriers will be the ability to interface with either FDD or TD LTE technology, as telecom infrastructure providers deliver packages that maximize carrier flexibility with features such as seamlessly switching calls from LTE to legacy voice networks.
Cloud solutions are transforming businesses at every level, letting them rapidly deploy cost-effective services on demand. In the telecom industry, however, deployment has been somewhat lagging while the telco-grade performance and robustness of these solutions reached the necessary levels. Now, though, the further development of the cloud will result in more carriers looking at ways to migrate from telecoms-specific solutions to general purpose cloud platforms. While initially they will be managed primarily as “private clouds” by the operators, over time the market may evolve to include third-party cloud service providers, thus reducing some of the overhead costs incurred by on-premise management.
Cloud technologies such as network function virtualization and software-defined networking are paving the way for companies to move more networking functionality from hardware to the software. SDN is particularly promising, but it still needs additional development and work on standardization before we will see mass deployments in telecom. There will be further development of the APIs, vendor portfolios and coordination abilities with current infrastructure over the coming year that will bring it closer to maturation.
The most significant change waiting in the wings for telecom providers is the maturation of understanding how customer experience management capabilities can yield consistent and quantifiable business benefits to the operators. Mobile customers are particularly fickle, as shown by a survey published by Nokia Solutions and Networks earlier this year. In fact, 40% of customers expressed a willingness to change providers for the prospect of better service. On the other hand, 28% of U.S. customers were also willing to spend extra for additional services, highlighting the importance of maximizing mobile offerings in 2014. The providers that can deliver better technology and an enhanced customer experience stand to make significant gains in the market.
In order to deliver a superior level of service in an industry where many customers see little distinction between providers, the data gathered by the carrier is crucial to understanding the users’ issues or needs and to address them effectively. Unfortunately, the ability to collect information from customers has grown much more quickly than the ability to analyze it. Collectively, this growing mass of information is referred to as big data.
Big data vs. right data
Used correctly, big data can yield important insights into customer behavior and attitudes that can shape business decisions. Some organizations, however, have approached the challenge of big data with the thought that a complete reworking of the network is required in order to make available and analyze all this information. In addition, they are struggling to effectively determine what specific goals they hope to achieve with their data.
A more achievable approach that will take off in 2014 is what is referred to as “right data.” This strategy will require a shift in mindset rather than a fundamental restructuring of the network. Instead of creating a single enormous repository and sorting through everything, right data initiatives are software solutions that can link multiple sources of data that already exist or can easily be made available from the network, IT infrastructure and even from social media, and extract only the relevant insights using defined parameters. The result is smaller, more manageable information sets that are simpler, cheaper and far faster to analyze.
The rise of customer focus
The technical developments that have characterized enterprise IT over the past several years promise to make 2014 a significant year for the telecom industry. In conjunction with advances in LTE technology, implementation of cloud technologies will deliver agility to carriers as they seek to match network capabilities to the massive, relentless growth in demand for mobile broadband data and at the same time glean more insights into the customer experience. Improvements in CEM offerings will benefit the providers who adopt the most advanced solutions and place more emphasis on their customers, rather than their networks.